ALAN STUBBS today insisted Hibs will be far better prepared to face Rangers in the first round of the Petrofac Training Cup than they were a year ago.
After seeing the Capital club pitched against their Championship rivals for the second season in succession – Hibs will be at home this time round on Saturday, July 25 – Stubbs admitted to being both pleasantly surprised by the draw and also hugely excited.
Twelve months ago, Stubbs was still desperately trying to put a squad together following the sacking of his predecessor Terry Butcher – having arrived at Easter Road to find 14 first-team players had been released following the club’s relegation – when he was confronted with a trip to Ibrox as his first match as Hibs’ new head coach.
A ten-day delay thanks to the Govan ground being used to stage the Commonwealth Games’ rugby sevens tournament, offered him a short respite before his new-look side almost pulled off what would, at that moment in time, have been a minor shock, Danny Handling cancelling out Lewis MacLeod’s early opener only to be sent off before Nicky Law claimed an extra-time winner for Rangers.
Today, though, having seen goalkeeper Mark Oxley become the sixth member of last season’s squad to agree a new contract, Stubbs firmly believes Hibs will be in far better shape for the opening game of the new season with new Rangers boss Mark Warburton now very much in the position he found himself a year ago. Stubbs said: “I’m pleasantly surprised with the draw, but also really excited and pleased by the news.
“Obviously, at first glance, it has the look of the match at the beginning of last season, but I believe we will be far better prepared going into this one and I’m a lot more relaxed about it. This is a great tie for the competition and we wanted competitive games in the build-up to the league season – this cup tie certainly fits the bill.
“I’ll be looking forward to it and we’ll prepare for it diligently. What better way is there to start off both the season and the competition.”
Cup holders Livingston start their defence with a home clash against League Two side Clyde while Lowland League champions Edinburgh City host Queen’s Park at Meadowbank.
Cowdenbeath v Raith; Forfar v Montrose; Arbroath v Dunfermline; Brechin v Peterhead; Falkirk v East Fife; Elgin v Stirling Albion; East Stirlingshire v Stenhousemuir; Brora v Alloa Athletic.
South section: Annan Athletic v Airdrieonians; St Mirren v Berwick Rangers; Edinburgh City v Queen’s Park; Morton v Dumbarton; Ayr v Albion Rovers; Livingston v Clyde; Hibs v Rangers; Queen of South v Stranraer.
Ties scheduled for Saturday, July 25.